Instagram’s founders have resigned. Here’s all you need to know

By Elton Gomes

Instagram announced on Monday that its co-founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger have resigned as the chief executive officer and chief technical officer, respectively. Although Systrom and Krieger did not explicitly mention the reason for their resignation, it is believed that a highly intrusive role by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg could be the reason for them stepping down.

Systrom and Krieger said they have planned to take time some off after leaving Instagram. Systrom and Krieger met in 2010 and have known each other since. It was in the same year that they transformed a software project developed by Systrom into what eventually became Instagram, which now has more than one billion users.

In a statement on Monday, Systrom said he and Krieger were “ready for our next chapter,” and indicated that they could be onto something new.

“We’re planning on taking some time off to explore our curiosity and creativity again,” Systrom said. “Building new things requires that we step back, understand what inspires us and match that with what the world needs; that’s what we plan to do,” the New York Times reported.

Zuckerberg’s interference

Systrom and Krieger have been a part of Instagram since its acquisition by Facebook in 2012. They were able to maintain Instagram’s brand and keep its product independent while relying on Facebook’s infrastructure and resources to grow.

However, Zuckerberg’s daily involvement resulted in the duo becoming frustrated. As Facebook witnessed a slump, it became increasingly reliant on Instagram to plan its future, sourced told Bloomberg on the condition of anonymity.

As part of the acquisition deal, Facebook had agreed to let Instagram run independently. However, in May, Instagram’s vice president of product, Kevin Weil, moved to Facebook’s new blockchain team and was replaced by former vice president of Facebook News Feed Adam Mosseri — a member of Zuckerberg’s inner circle.

Systrom and Zuckerberg initially got along well, although they disagreed on certain occasions. A source said that they would clash a few times in a year before resolving things. These clashes included the topic of sharing back to Facebook. “Kevin wanted to keep the sharing on Instagram but at some point, Mark wanted content production on Instagram to flow to Facebook. But things got more heated lately. Recently, Mark decided to pull all of the links to Instagram from Facebook,” TechCrunch reported.

The evidence of the clash was visible when Facebook, in 2017, confirmed that it would be adding a shortcut to Instagram to its bookmarks menu. That shortcut, however, never appeared. Moreover, Facebook began leveraging Instagram’s appeal to send notifications. In June, some users began receiving Facebook notifications on their Instagram tab. The move did not do well with Instagram users.

Facebook has not released any statement on the tension. However, Zuckerberg has praised Systrom and Krieger. “Kevin and Mike are extraordinary product leaders and Instagram reflects their combined creative talents,” Zuckerberg said in a statement. “I’ve learned a lot working with them for the past six years and have really enjoyed it,” Bloomberg reported.

WhatsApp CEO quits Facebook

Systrom and Krieger’s resignation assumes importance after WhatsApp chief executive and co-founder Jan Koum quit in April over disagreements with Facebook regarding privacy and encryption.

“It’s been almost a decade since Brian [Acton] and I started WhatsApp, and it’s been an amazing journey with some of the best people. But it is time for me to move on,” Koum said in his Facebook profile, the Guardian reported.

Keeping user privacy as its focus and a dislike for ads led Koum and his co-founder, Brian Acton, to develop WhatsApp. When Facebook acquired WhatsApp, Koum promised users that these values will not be compromised.

Facebook’s slowly chipped away at some of WhatsApp’s values. In 2016, WhatsApp announced that it would start sharing some user data, including phone numbers, with Facebook. This move garnered a lot of flak, especially among European regulators, who demanded that Facebook stop collecting data from WhatsApp users and fined the company.

What does this mean for FB?

Systrom and Krieger’s exit may impact Facebook’s ability to manage its ongoing crises around election interference, fake news, and a general public perception that Facebook is no longer a viable medium for society or democracy.

Teenagers favour Instagram as a fast-growing and successful alternative to Facebook. Media reports suggest that teenagers are quitting Facebook in millions. Additionally, there are people who are disillusioned by Facebook’s privacy violations and its overall impact on peoples’ digital and social life. In the absence of Systrom and Krieger, Instagram may struggle to continue growing at its previous pace while maintaining the same levels of autonomy from Facebook.

Elton Gomes is a staff writer at Qrius